There are tons of guides out there with tips on how to squeeze the most out of your back-to-school budgets.
In this post, we talk about how to bring your kids along for the back-to-school shopping ride. In fact, we think it could be time to put them in the driver’s seat — with some adult supervision, of course — to teach them first-hand about trade-off decisions.
Start with a back-to-school budget.
Put that budget in your child’s Spend Anywhere account within the Greenlight app before you start shopping. When the child themselves makes the purchases on their Greenlight card, they will feel more responsible for how the funds are spent.
Deloitte’s 2019 Back-to-School Survey reported the average family will spend $519 per child on supplies, electronics, apparel and accessories for the new school year. Start there, or with a budget your family is comfortable with.
Attack the school supplies list.
- Get your 2019-20 supplies and clothes list in a spreadsheet. (Find one of our favorites here.)
- Have your kids take inventory of what they already have and what they need for next year. Spreading out items on the kitchen table or bed can spark conversations on what’s essential to purchase new this year versus what’s nice to have.
- Make a plan. We recommend starting with school supplies before going into the latest clothes and sneakers.
Tons of experts have taken the hard work out of bargain hunting. Goodhousekeeping, U.S. News & World Report and The Krazy Coupon Lady and have already published their best deals guides to the 2019 back-to-school shopping seasons. Have your kids review these guides and prioritize their most important items.
Sit with your kids and shop around online for name-brand items, and see if you can find them at a lower cost across Amazon, Walmart.com or other budget sites. You can mark the best prices on your spreadsheet.
Pro tip: Target started School List Assist in 2017. Just search for your school and Target collects all your supplies in an online shopping cart. Do your research with your child to make sure you’re finding the best deals.
Ready to brave the stores?
The budget can be made or broken in the crowded aisles of Walmart, Target, The Dollar Store or your local shops. To avoid the crowds, we recommend early in the morning or later in the afternoon during the week.
Bring your spreadsheet with you and know how much is left on your list.
Have your tech-savvy kids download Shop Savvy. It’s a Greenlight fan favorite. While you’re at the store, scan barcodes to see if you’re getting the best deal around, and mark the best deals off the list as you find them.
Have your kids handle checkout. While they use their Greenlight, they’ll feel more ownership of the items they purchased. And hopefully they’ll take better care of their things now that they’ve been in charge of their budget.
Balance your budget before apparel shopping.
Reconcile your budget in the spreadsheet before going shopping for clothes, so your kids know how much they can spend.
Make deals with them or trade-offs for things that may fall out of budget. Have them prioritize what’s most important for now — what do they need now, and what can wait until later in the school year?
Let us know how your shopping goes!
Post photos of your kids on social media using #mygreenlight.
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Julie Lythcott-Haimes, author of How to Raise an Adult, gave a TED Talk in 2015 about setting the right priorities for your kids. She quoted the Harvard Grant Study (only the longest longitudinal study ever conducted) which concluded “professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid.”
We think chores are important too, which is why we launched a set of chores features in the Greenlight app in February of this year. Since then, we’ve actually had Greenlight families tell us that their kids have asked for MORE chores after instituting a routine.
When is the right time to start chores?
All families are different, and all kids are different. A chores routine can start as early as “getting clothes to the laundry basket” in preschool years.
Back-to-school season is a great time to talk about getting back into routines, and asking your kids for input on what tasks need to be done. Another great time is birthdays, recognizing that with age comes new responsibilities.
Which chores do I choose?
Of all Greenlight families, the five most popular chores are:
Clean your bedroom is the most popular chore for all ages. Read is popular for younger kids, under the age of 10. Take out the trash heats up for children over 12 years of age. And wash the dishes is most popular around 15-17.
Some other personal favorites from the editor: pick up after yourself, scoop the dog poop and be nice to your brother. “No cussing” has also been a fan favorite around the Greenlight office. A special shout out to the parents writing their chores in ALL CAPS. But we digress…
On average, Greenlight families institute 4.41 chores per child, and recurring chores are by far more popular than one-time.
Here’s a helpful guide from the moms of Sunshine and Hurricanes with kid-friendly chores from preschool through 10 years of age.
Do I pay my kids for chores?
A recent T. Rowe Price survey on parents, kids and money saw that 51% of parents give their kids allowance, but the kids have to earn it.
Ron Lieber, author of Greenlight staff favorite The Opposite of Spoiled, advises not to give allowances in exchange for chores. He says, “Allowances ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”
Chores teach accountability and responsibility. Allowances tangibly teach the practices of budgeting and saving. (More on allowances over the coming weeks.)
There are experts and Greenlight families, on both sides of the fence of this debate. We encourage each family to make decisions based on what will work best for them.
- You may institute a chore schedule that includes standard tasks (like cleaning up bedrooms, doing laundry or walking the dog), and incentivizes more high-value tasks with monetary rewards on a less-frequent basis.
- You might consider an allowance to be regular payment for jobs well done. If the clothes are piled up on the desk instead of on the floor, little Sophia’s room still isn’t “clean” to mom’s golden standard.
- You can tie chore completion to allowances. If the trash isn’t taken out, floor isn’t vacuumed and the dog poop isn’t scooped, you won’t get your allowance this week.
Whatever your chore routine, Greenlight can help you stick to it
With features like flexible scheduling and linking chore completion to allowance, Greenlight has helped thousands of families implement a routine.
Set chores that repeat weekly, or multiple times a week.
Or set one-time chores for bigger tasks like spring cleaning, babysitting or mowing the lawn.
Kids review and check off their chores as complete.
Review the chore schedule and manage scheduled payouts.
Don’t have Greenlight yet?
18.5% of Greenlight kids have spent money at Amazon
So by our predictions, your kids are probably already buzzing about Amazon Prime Day next week (July 15-16). Maybe they’ve been reading rumors of most epic tech markdowns or set up fancy price alerts to know as soon as their prized item is down to their savings goal balance. (Want price alerts of your own? Here’s one way to set them up.)
As always, we’ve been thinking about how Prime Day can fit into money talks, plus how Greenlight can help you manage spending safely.
Time for budget talks
What makes a good deal? Fortunately, most kids are expert Googlers. Before they click for the checkout button, work with them to search for competing prices and to balance the value of the newest version of the computer or sneaker they’re eyeing vs. last year’s model.
Set up greenlights
Set up greenlights to control how much your kids can spend at Amazon. No shocking credit card bills. No overdraft fees. No surprises.
Back to school is upon us
For some districts, school is back in session in July. Now is prime time (see what we did there?) to think about clothes, supplies and electronics your kids need for the next year.
Bring kids into the conversation. Set a budget for each child and talk with them about Amazon deals fit into that budget.
Pro tip: Scary Mommy will be live blogging the best back to school Amazon Prime Day deals next week. And we’re on the edge of our seats.
We’re sitting on some great ideas on how to bring kids in on back to school shopping without getting in the way. Stay tuned – more on that topic over the next couple weeks.
Haven’t joined Greenlight yet?
Summers are busy. Between visits to grandma, beach trips, summer camp, and the inaugural summer job (!), your kids may be spending tons of time away from home. Throughout the coordinated chaos, Summer offers great opportunities to continue money talks with your kids.
Many families go on summer trips. In fact, 68% of you fine American families* will hit the road before school starts.
Use this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about the value of saving. Discuss the tradeoffs you made throughout the year to fund your excursion and talk about the specific costs associated with you trip.
Scholastic has a lesson with a couple handy worksheets – including a trip cost calculator in case you need a bit of help. (Don’t worry – we also learned a thing or two.)
For parents of teens, this summer may be the first one employed, and may it be the first of many. Before your kids pull out their Greenlight card to spend all of their Friday paycheck on Fortnight Battlepacks, remind them of the practice of saving.
Work with them to develop a distribution plan for their paychecks. How much will they put into Save, Spend and Give accounts on a regular basis?
The first job is probably the first time your kids encounter the not-so-simple world of income taxes. And before you click away from this page in search of safer waters, know that the earlier you approach the subject of Uncle Sam with your kids, the more prepared they’ll be when the leave the house.
Going over their pay stub is a great way to show teens how taxes impact their take-home pay. Talk with them about the purpose of social security, medicare, federal, state and local taxes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a simple guide to the anatomy of a paycheck that may help. Remind them that smart budgeting (see savings tip above), helps you account for the tax you pay.
(Side note: did you know teens can directly deposit their paychecks into their Greenlight accounts?)
Back to School
In 2018, Deloitte estimated families spent $510 per child**, on average, on back to school expenses. Between clothes, electronics and general supplies, that’s a hefty penny. And also an opportunity to reinforce the conversation of budgeting, especially when it comes with the price tag of a new school year.
Later in July, we’ll talk about how to instill healthy money habits into routines as the kids go back to school. Follow us on social media for the latest tips and tricks about money talks and recent updates to the Greenlight app.
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*2019 AAA Travel Survey
**Deloitte 2019 Back to School Survey
Let Kids Manage Their Own Budget
The sooner kids realize the value of dollars spent, the quicker they’ll catch on to the importance of saving. When they have to make decisions on whether to spend or save their own money, they consider the trade-offs they are making. Kids learn a lot from managing their own money, and the sooner they get started the quicker they’ll learn.
Teach Kids about Saving
Greenlight provides a suite of tools to help create teachable moments around saving. Show kids their Greenlight Savings Account and explain how to make saving a habit. When they start earning some money of their own, encourage them to save some of it. You can allocate portions of allowance payments to Savings, to instill smart money management.
Teach Kids the Importance of Giving
One of Greenlight’s most unique features is Giving. Within the Giving tab of the app, kids can put their own money aside to donate or make a purchase for a nonprofit of their choice. Instilling this thought leadership when they are young will instill good prioritization in money management later on.
“It’s great that we can allocate a certain amount to ‘give.’ My daughter was so proud she had money to donate to kids in our district who struggle to purchase school necessities.L.M.
Hi everyone, Tim Sheehan, Greenlight Co-Founder & CEO here with some exciting news – Greenlight 2.0 is HERE! That’s right, if you haven’t already heard, the brand new version of Greenlight has just made its way onto the scene.
When we started mapping out what we wanted to include in Greenlight 2.0, we reviewed all of the amazing comments, suggestions, ideas, etc. we’ve received from our Greenlight families. All of that feedback helped us create this updated version of Greenlight that we hope you’ll love!
What’s new in 2.0?
You’ll notice immediately when you open the updated version of Greenlight that there is a new look and feel to the app. Our goal with this version was to make the app even easier to use while incorporating some great new features and functionality. I think the app looks fantastic especially when you add pictures of your kids.
Now, when your child needs cash (e.g., to buy something from a place that only accepts cash), you can add money to the “Any ATM” greenlight to set a specific amount that your child can withdraw from any ATM. (i.e., only the amount of money that the parent specifies in the “Any ATM” greenlight may be withdrawn from an ATM.)
Also brand new in 2.0 is Savings Goals! This feature allows your child to set aside money for a specific purpose – like a new bike, cell phone, game, or trip – and visually see how they are making progress toward reaching that goal! Also, Greenlight kids will receive Parent-paid Interest on the money they save in their specific Savings Goals accounts.
Greenlight’s brand new Giving feature allows Greenlight families to allocate a certain portion of a child’s funds to be set aside for donations to charities and purchases from non-profit organizations. This is something that hits very close to home for many of us on the Greenlight Team. We have seen numerous Greenlight families express this same sentiment and request a feature that would make it easier to allow their kids to dedicate a portion of their money for charities that they are passionate about.
These are just a few of the many new and improved features within Greenlight 2.0. Don’t just take my word for it though, take a look for yourself! 🙂
Don’t have Greenlight yet? Sign up now!
Have you already played around with the latest version of Greenlight? Does 2.0 get the Greenlight from you and your family? Please let us know by sending us an email or by messaging us directly within the Greenlight app (go to Settings > Help > Contact Us).
All of us at Greenlight are focused on 1 goal: to help parents raise financially-smart kids. We’ll continue to work hard toward that goal.
THANK YOU for being a Greenlight family! 🙂
As the average U.S. household debt continues to rise, Greenlight families are seeing a different trend. We’re thrilled to announce today that Greenlight kids have saved more than $1 million dollars using Greenlight Savings, The Educational Savings Account for Kids. Official story here. With the average U.S. household savings rate at 2.8%, Greenlight kids are saving a whopping 8.4% of their money on average. That’s triple the national average!
The Educational Savings Account for Kids allows kids to see real growth in their savings account, how interest works over time, and the impact of spending versus saving, which helps them understand the importance of saving for the future. Not only that, but parents can set their own interest rate and pay the interest automatically within the child’s Greenlight Savings. The national average interest rate for bank savings accounts is 0.08%, making it difficult to educate kids on the value of savings. The average interest rate set by Greenlight parents is 19.84% enabling kids to see the benefits and importance of savings almost immediately.
Since April, Greenlight kids have more than quadrupled the amount of money in their savings accounts. We are proud to continue offering new features like the Educational Savings Account for Kids as an option that is convenient for families and offers flexibility for each family and each child’s unique needs. We are helping parents teach their kids to be smart about money and set them up for success financially, and are hopeful that impact can change the financial course for a new generation.
We’re on a mission to help parents raise financially-smart kids and are thrilled to see so many families using Greenlight Savings to teach their kids the importance of saving. But, we’re not done just yet. We have several new features that we’re excited to release in the near future. Stay tuned!
Kids are tough. Shopping for foods they’ll eat, making lunches, getting them to do their homework, getting them up and out the door on time, and getting them to put down their tech and go outside can be challenging. One of the biggest challenges we as parents face when it comes to kids is getting them to eat healthily.
The money conversation. It can be one of the hardest conversations we have with our kids (let’s be real: it can be one of the hardest conversations we have with anyone). But it’s also one of the most important conversations we have to have as parents.
This is a guest post by DiAna Kelley, founder of the Giving Me Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that teaches strategies about monthly budgeting, credit, and financial retirement to teenagers and young adults in order to create healthy financial lifestyles.